The Inn's History
The Bird-in-Hand Village Inn & Suites’ legacy of hospitality begins at the door of our 1734 Inn. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this property is as old as the Old Philadelphia Pike, the Colonial byway on which it sits.
Opened in 1734 by William McNabb, it was one of many inns built along this well-established trade route between the port of Philadelphia and its western frontier. McNabb, a friendly Quaker, owned 200 acres of land, comprising the majority of present day Bird-in-Hand. His crude log house served as a rest stop for man and beast and gave birth to the name of the village itself.
Upon his death, the inn was inherited by his only son John in 1748. John sold it in 1755 to Joseph Steer, who operated the Red Lion Inn just a mile or so farther west in Smoketown. George Bressler’s son-in-law operated the inn as a hotel and tavern as did subsequent owners.
The hotel, by now described as a long, single story and a half building, was destroyed by fire about 1851. Benjamin Groff, who then owned the property, build a three-story, Victorian brick hotel on the site in 1852. It is said that this building is the fourth to stand on the original stone foundation.
When Groff died and the inn went up for public sale in 1853, the inn was advertised as “a large and commodious three-story Brick Tavern House, with a two-story brick wing attached, a Swisser barn, stone shedding, mill and smokehouses, hog stable, and a straw shed in front of the barn, and other buildings. A young bearing orchard of choice fruit; and a number of locust trees along the fences. The land is divided into convenient fields, well fenced, and in a high state of cultivation. About two acres thereof are covered with heavy timber.”
Over the years the inn had several more owners. The following was written of the hotel in 1899: “It is beautifully situated on the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, convenient to both Lancaster and Philadelphia. Parties looking for a delightful place to spend the summer will find here all that can be desired. The house is well kept and cuisine first class.” Indeed, in the early 1900’s, there were foxhunts from the hotel, as well as horse and cow sales.
In 1938, the inn was acquired by Clarence and Margaret Bitzer and operated as Bitzer’s Hotel. In 1988 longtime Bird-in-Hand resident, Pat Keener Desmond, her husband George and the Smucker family purchased the inn and extensively renovated it, reopening it as the Bird-in-Hand Village Inn. Its southeast bar room (presently the Margaret Bitzer Suite) is the oldest section of the house. The thick walls surrounding this room apparently survived the 1851 fire. The cellar walls supporting the oldest section of the house date back to the original hotel.
In 2004 three more historic homes across from the Village Inn owned by George and Pat Keener Desmond were painstakingly renovated, and the Ressler House, Desmond House and Carriage House opened as part of the expanded Bird-in-Hand Village Inn & Suites. Today visitors from all over the world once again enjoy the rich history and tradition of fine hospitality that dates back to our nation’s founding. top